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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (4 June) . . Page.. 1807 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I seek leave to make a brief statement.

Leave granted.

MR STEFANIAK: Scrutiny report No 13 contains the committee's comments on three bills. The report was circulated to members out of session. I commend the report to the Assembly.

Rates and Land Tax Amendment Bill 2002

Debate resumed from 9 May 2002, on motion by Mr Quinlan:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (11.00): Mr Speaker, the opposition does not support this piece of legislation. Prior to the 2001 election, the Labor Party, in opposition, made a number of critical comments about the operation of the ACT rating system. The comments were made against the backdrop of a major reform of the rating system carried out in the Third Assembly by the Liberal government, reform which resulted in the introduction of three-year rolling averages for the calculation of rates liability and the introduction of a threshold which meant that there was some base payment made by all citizens equally, irrespective of the value of their homes.

That was a long, drawn out process which resulted in much comment and criticism, but which produced at the end of the day a change to the rates system that was pretty well universally supported at the time, including, I might say, by the then Labor opposition. Mr Whitecross, who was then, I think, the leader of the Labor Party, indicated that the felt that it was an appropriate set of reforms to undertake. Indeed, we had had in previous years very significant rises in rates, huge fluctuations in rates, in individual suburbs, even in individual homes in individual suburbs, that were seen by many people as quite unacceptable and quite disturbing. The production of three-year rolling averages, thresholds and so forth tended to mitigate the effect of those fluctuations and rises under the new system were less sharp than they had been.

As I said, there was criticism during the life of the last Assembly of the operation of the rate system and the then opposition, now government, argued that the system was producing unacceptable results-rises in some suburbs, falls in others, rises which appeared to be out of kilter with the size of the increase in the value of homes, et cetera. The process was criticised and the then opposition made a number of commitments to change the rating system.

The bill which is before the Assembly today is not the core package of reforms which the government, the then opposition, promised. It is, in fact, only one relatively small part of it-the part which deals with a commitment to peg the overall increase in the rates take each year to what the government has described as the actual movement in the consumer price index rather than a projected estimate of what it will be for the coming financial year.

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